The Southwest Companion Pass has long been considered the holy grail of travel passes you can earn through a co-branded airline credit card. It’s valuable for a few reasons, including the fact that it’s good for the year you earn it and the entire following year. Not only that, but the Southwest Companion Pass applies to flights you buy with cash, as well as fares you book with Rapid Rewards points.

Since Southwest Airlines flies to more than 120 airports within the United States (including Hawaii) and throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico, having this pass lets you explore incredible destinations while gleaning significant savings on airfare. Let’s dive into the details on how the Southwest Companion Pass works and steps required to earn it in 2024.

How the Southwest Companion Pass works

Rewards enthusiasts who earn the Southwest Companion Pass get the chance to add another person to their flight reservation for each trip they take. Once someone achieves Companion Pass status, they can add a companion for the remainder of that year and the entire following year. This means someone who earns the Companion Pass in March of 2024 would receive all the benefits for a full 21 months (9 remaining months of 2024 and 12 months in 2025).

There’s no limit on how often the pass can be used, so Companion Pass members could easily fly with a free companion dozens of times and potentially more. The only cost for the companion fare comes in the form of government-required airline taxes, which are just $5.60 per leg for domestic trips.

What’s the catch? For the most part, there isn’t one. The only real “gotcha” of the Southwest Companion Pass is the fact you can only change your companion up to three times each calendar year. This prevents pass holders from traveling with a new companion every time they fly, yet it still provides some flexibility to change companions when required.

How to earn the Southwest Companion Pass

To qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass, you’ll need to join the Southwest Rapid Rewards program and fly 100 qualifying one-way flights or earn 135,000 qualifying points per calendar year. Many people achieve Companion Pass status by using a combination of Southwest credit card sign-up bonuses, credit card spending and rental car or hotel bookings made through Southwest.

Points that qualify toward the Companion Pass

If you’re interested in earning the Companion Pass, you should know that not all points will count toward this membership. Generally speaking, points that do count toward Companion Pass status with Southwest include the following:

  • Flights booked through Southwest
  • Points earned on Southwest Rapid Rewards credit cards
  • Base points earned from Rapid Rewards partners
  • Points earned through Southwest Rapid Rewards dining partners

Southwest credit card points count toward Companion Pass status when they are posted to your Rapid Rewards account (after your credit card closing date), not on the day the spending occurs. This is an important distinction; if you wait until December 31 to try and earn the Southwest Companion Pass before the calendar year ends, know that running out and spending money on your credit card that day likely won’t help.

You need to spend the money early enough so the points post to your account on your December billing statement. This ensures you can earn the full 135,000 points needed for the pass before the calendar year ends.

Points that do not qualify for the Companion Pass

As we just mentioned, not all Southwest points count toward the Companion Pass. Points that do not count toward the pass include:

  • Purchased points
  • Points transferred between members
  • Points converted through hotel and car loyalty programs
  • Points transferred to this program from Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Points earned through certain promotions offered to members

Earning Companion Pass-qualifying points through credit cards

While some of the details on Southwest credit cards change over time, getting one of these cards can be a huge leg up toward Companion Pass status. That’s because sign-up bonuses and points earned through regular spending can count toward status requirements.

The following Southwest credit cards can help you get to Companion Pass status significantly faster:

How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

Earning the Southwest Companion Pass can take some time, particularly if you don’t fly often or you can’t spend very much each month on a co-branded Southwest credit card. However, the steps required to actually use the pass once you earn it are easy to understand and follow.

How to designate your companion for the Southwest Companion Pass

To use the pass, all you have to do is log in to your Southwest Rapid Rewards account and set up a designated “companion.”

To assign your companion, you will:

  • Log into your rewards account at
  • Click the button that says “Choose Your Companion” under the Snapshot tab.
  • Click on “Enter Companion Info” and enter the details for your companion.

You can also call Southwest to add your companion over the phone at 1-800-435-9792.

How to apply the Companion Pass to a flight

Your designated companion gets to fly with you on each domestic or international flight you take. You will still owe airline taxes and fees for your companion. While these fees start at $5.60 per leg for domestic flights, they can climb as high as $100 or more for international flights to Mexico and the Caribbean.

To use your companion pass for a flight, you will go ahead and book your own airfare first (with points or with cash). After that, you will head to the “My Trips” section of your Southwest account.

At that point, you will:

  • Find your flight in the “Upcoming” section of your account
  • Click on “Add Companion” and then “Continue.”
  • Click on “Purchase” to confirm your companion and pay for airline taxes and fees.

You can also add your companion to an existing flight reservation by calling Southwest at 1-800-248-4377.

How to change your Southwest Companion Pass companion

You can only change your designated companion up to three times per calendar year. The steps required to change your companion are the same as if you were adding one in the first place. You’ll head to the Snapshot tab in your Southwest account, locate the “Choose Your Companion” button and follow the prompts to update your companion’s details.

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Keep in mind: your companion can only fly for free with you; they cannot use the pass to fly alone or with someone else.

The bottom line

If you’re willing to put in the work, a Southwest Companion Pass is well worth the effort. It comes with numerous benefits and savings that you can enjoy during the year you earn it — and the year after. Southwest also flies to a diverse array of destinations that can make this pass a game-changer when it comes to planning family trips.

Just remember that you’ll reach Companion Pass status easier if you let a Southwest credit card do most of the heavy lifting. Starting as early in the year as possible also gives you more time to earn all the points you need through qualifying activity.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • One major reason consumers love this pass is because you can use it an unlimited number of times during the year you earn it, plus the entire following year.

    With that in mind, Southwest Companion Pass rules don’t set any limits on how much value you can get in return. You can use your Companion Pass every week if you want to, and you can even use it when you pay for your flight with points instead of cash
  • Since the Southwest Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the year you earn it in and the entire following year, how long you have the pass depends on when you reach the point threshold during the calendar year.

    If you opened a Rapid Rewards account on January 1, 2024, and earned 135,000 points (posted to your account) by the end of June 2024, you’ll enjoy the benefits of the Southwest Companion Pass for the rest of 2024 and throughout 2025. The earlier in the year you achieve Southwest Companion Pass status, the longer you’re able to enjoy the benefits and savings.
  • The best time to earn the Companion Pass is as early in the calendar year as possible. After all, you get the pass for the remainder of the year you earn it and the next year in its entirety.
  • The Southwest Companion Pass can be used an unlimited number of times, but you can only change your companion up to three times each calendar year. Also remember that your companion cannot fly with the pass on their own — they can only fly if you’re also on the itinerary and you add them to your reservation.

*The information about the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.